Category Archives: Journalism

The end of EQ

This is the update I provided over at Edmonton Quotient, and to newsletter subscribers, when I shut down the magazine this year.

Today, the EQ hiatus is officialy over. 🙂

But so is EQ as an online magazine. 😔

I hinted at some personal reasons to go on hiatus last year and, while I’m not going to give you a long and boring story about my life, I’ll just say that a combination of (newly-diagnosed) ADHD, the work needed to find ways to live successfully with said ADHD, and general stresses and overwhelm pushed me into a bit of a crash last summer. I’m feeling much better now (even with this election!) but I still don’t think I can quite wrap my head around all the things needed to keep EQ going in the ways I would like. I mean, I’ve literally just started figuring out how to break down tasks and to-do lists without constant stress, confusion and shame. 😬

So, I won’t be continuing to run EQ as a local journalism outlet offering independent perspectives on Edmonton issues and news.

I’ve thought about keeping the EQ brand around as a way to continue to share my own journalism (or anything someone else would want to share or collaborate on) but that idea isn’t really fleshed out right now. The site will remain up for now, either way.

Side note:

If you struggle with stress of any sort, I always recommend finding a professional to talk with. It could just be a tough time for you, and/or it could be something else getting in your way that requires some care and attention, and compassion.You can search for psychologists with specific areas of expertise, or who have an office close to you, at the Psychologists’ Association of Alberta.

You can skip the wait for an appointment and start chatting with someone online with a service like Betterhelp – insurance note; the big online counselling platforms tend to be based in the U.S.

Mental healthcare is still too damn expensive, so you can also find free, walk-in, services at Momentum. They also take donations if you’re not in need at the moment but could help them help people.

If this is the last time we’re together here on this website I want to make sure you really hear how appreciative I am of you spending your time with me and other folks who have helped tell stories through this platform.

Thank you for choosing to subscribe to our newsletter. Thank you for reading, listening or viewing anything we’ve produced with local journalists and storytellers. Thank you for supporting the Edmonton businesses we’ve partnered with. Thanks for supporting local.

Thanks, also, to the local journalists, photographers, videographers, producers and storytellers who have been a part of this conversation. Please keep following them wherever they are, and follow others they are sharing stories from. Absolutely nothing will make me happier about my time with EQ than seeing myself as the only white, straight man on the contributors page.

(Personal note: Nothing I do that’s worth mentioning is done without the support of my wife and creative partner, Sally.)

And, thanks to Edmonton business owners, freelancers, makers and entrepreneurs who supported this Edmonton business. Local businesses and makers play such a huge role in our lives in this city, and some of the folks who do this work are truly building communities.

See you around, Edmonton.

Jeff


Because we’re two weeks from election day in Alberta, please make sure to figure out where your voting station is, book time off to vote (or vote in the advance polls, or make sure your employer gives you the required time to vote on April 16) and get informed. Support a local candidate who will represent your values at the Alberta Legislature.

If you’ve got time, volunteer. If you’ve got money, donate. This really does feel like an election that decides the direction of Alberta for years to come. Be part of it.

Oh, and don’t vote for the party full of white supremacy and hate.


As I did when we went on hiatus last year, I’ll list some local journalism places and people to help keep you updated and informed on all things Edmonton:

The Yards – The print magazine for detailed looks at the downtown and Oliver neighbourhoods, and issues affecting Edmonton’s core communities

Taproot Edmonton – Local stories, a City Hall podcast, and curated emails on local topics

Rat Creek Press – One of Edmonton’s longest-running hyper-local sources

CBC Edmonton – Particularly Natasha Riebe at city hall, Andrea Huncar on social justice and the investigative team of Charles Rusnell and Jennie Russell (also follow CBC Indigenous)

Bashir Mohamed – Stop what you’re doing right now and go follow Bashir! He’s become one of the city’s most important voices. sharing Edmonton and Alberta Black history in very accessible ways.

Elise Stolte – Columnist focusing on city issues, a must-follow on Twitter and on Facebook

Tim Querengesser – Editor of The Yards, journalist and a voice of reason on all things urban planning

CJSR – The community radio station powered by listeners, with a whole slate of great news and interview programming from and with diverse Edmonton voices

Media Indigena – This podcast always has plenty of Treaty 6 topics and voices (Edmonton is on Treaty 6 land), also worth a follow on Twitter or Facebook

Alberta Views – For all things outside of the Metro Region (and sometimes inside it too)

Eighteen Bridges – For fantastic longform and feature journalism

Alberta Podcast Network – There are plenty of local podcasts to listen to and some great ones to support

Progress Alberta – Not news exactly, but sign up for their newsletter for a good dose of what’s going on provincially and how to help build a better province (if you like EQ you’ll probably like PA)

A couple of spots outside of Edmonton: support The Sprawl in Calgary, The Tyee in B.C. (and Alberta and nationally) and Canadaland (nationally) for more investigative, adversarial and local journalism and important and needed media criticism.

That list is in no particular order and likely definitely leaves out something or someone but it’s a fairly solid place to start.

Entrepreneurial journalism

Today I flipped the switch and launched Edmonton Quotient into the Internet. It may not be, technically, my first business but it’s certainly the first one I’ve approached that way from the start.

The last few years I’ve called myself a “sometimes journalist” or said that I worked in media jobs that were journalism-adjacent. I think those are both accurate descriptions of my work at Capital Ideas and Accessible Media. Since I’ll still be working on a lot of the content for EQ, I think my new attempt at a job title would be journalist-entrepreneur or “entrepreneurial journalist”.

I hope the content and stories that are to be produced for Edmonton Quotient are good. I hope they help fill the gap of shrinking newsrooms cut again and again by profit-driven corporations. And I most hope they inform Edmontonians and activate people to take part in the many issues and challenges our city faces.

Strange as it may seem, I’m not truly worried about the content side of things. There are a lot of great journalists in Edmonton that can write and produce for EQ. It’s coming up with money for them to do this that will be my real work. That’s where the entrepreneurial aspects come into play.

So many headlines remind us how media industries are failing. The question, then, is how I’m going to build a successful, sustainable media company here in Edmonton. (This is where I tell you where to send the giant novelty cheques.)

I’m making a few guesses about how to do this. First, find as many streams of revenue as possible. I’ve got three or four in mind right out of the gate, but I’ve still got to be open to new opportunities as they arrive, especially if a pivot makes business sense (while retaining integrity around the journalism).

Second, I think local businesses have a role to play in local media. Along with cuts to newsrooms, you see local ad space disappearing on local media websites. It’s all Google boxes and ad networks. I think there is something to be said for visiting a local website and knowing that all of the ads and sponsors you see are from businesses you can walk into today.

Local website, not-so-local advertising.
Local website, not-so-local advertising.

Edmonton Quotient will have local news, local information and local advertising. If you’re not an Edmonton (or area) business, I don’t want your money and I don’t want your ads on the site. Part of the “conversation” between content and audience needs to include local businesses that are interested in finding new customers. I’m hoping this curation of advertising gives people a reason to pay attention to ads and sponsors they see on EQ content.

I suppose a smaller bet I’m making is that I don’t need to pull in millions of dollars each month. That kind of massive media model is teetering and I think smaller, local and niche media is where things are going and where success will be found.

Whatever happens, I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

(The easiest way to keep updated is to sign up for EQ’s newsletter. I’ll do all the work for you!)

Edmonton’s New Media Outlet

I’m starting a new Edmonton magazine that will focus on local news, issues and discussions about our city. It’s called Edmonton Quotient (or, EQ for short) and I hope you’ll sign up today to be the first to know when it officially launches.

I’m choosing today to announce Edmonton Quotient because it was one year ago – January 19, 2016 – that Edmonton’s local news coverage took a very public and very difficult hit when Postmedia combined the newsrooms of the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun and laid off more than 30 people (newsrooms in Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa were also combined with a second paper also owned by Postmedia). More people left soon after that, not interested in working in a gutted newsroom or simply leaving before the next cuts came (which they did, before the end of 2016 as Postmedia looked to slash 20% of its staffing costs).

These cuts were by no means the largest or deepest to hit Edmonton news, as all outlets have laid people off and reduced staff in the last decade, as digital changes left the old business models flailing. I also doubt we’ve seen the end of such decisions for local affiliates of Postmedia, Bell, Rogers, Shaw and possibly even CBC (though that one remains tied to government decisions until such time it’s out of the advertising world).

The cuts did get a lot of attention though, as newspapers remain the primary driver of enterprise and original journalism in most cities (and the former editor-in-chief grabbed attention too). So it means fewer feature stories in Edmonton, less beat coverage at City Hall or the Alberta Legislature (or in health, education, neighbourhood issues, the court system, etc.) and more duplication of the same stories everyone is covering at the same news conferences and daily events.

I’m not saying that Edmonton Quotient will fill all the gaps left by last year’s cuts at Postmedia, or years of cuts at other outlets (including losing one alt-weekly newspaper, SEE Magazine, and the City-TV newsroom). In fact, I don’t necessarily think the old newsroom models are the best use of resources, especially with thinned-out staff numbers. The inability to truly pivot from some of those models will be a continued problem for those struggling corporations with local banners (on both the journalism and business side).

I want Edmonton Quotient to tell some local stories, dig into some local concerns, offer people actions they can take on issues they feel are important, provide some media literacy and pay journalists a decent fee for their work (no working for “exposure“). No news outlet can cover everything well, and keeping that in mind we’ll pick and choose what we can bring new information and insights to. I hope you’ll be part of the conversation.

Another goal I have for the content is to include new and minority voices in the coverage and conversations. I’m a straight, white male living a fairly privileged middle class life. My view of the world, and those of some of my colleagues in a white (male) media cannot be the centre of EQ’s journalism. Please put me in touch with new journalists and as many women, Indigenous and people of colour writers, journalists and thinkers who could work on stories and be guests on podcasts and at events.


Local business is also part of my vision for Edmonton Quotient. I believe there’s value in being able to let local folks know about your business, and there will be advertising and sponsorship opportunities with EQ.

For the business owner choosing us, ads will be highly visible, limited to a small number of Edmonton businesses and reasonably priced. And we won’t pressure you to spend more money on longer campaigns – if advertising with EQ isn’t meeting your goals we hope you spend your money elsewhere (and if we know where that could be, we’ll point you in that direction). We see this as a relationship between two Edmonton businesses helping each other.

For the audience, the ads will be limited in number, for local businesses only – places you could walk into today – and we hope that curation will make them a valuable and important part of your time spent with Edmonton Quotient. I know I love finding out about great new places to spend my time and money here in Edmonton. This will not become a cluttered website of ad boxes, page takeovers and pop-ups. (And no programmatic ad networks that compromise your Internet privacy and follow you from site to site.) Advertising should be smart, informative and even helpful to its audience.

In short, Edmonton Quotient will be a place to discuss important Edmonton issues, see some interesting local and long-form journalism (which ideally introduces you to new voices and points of view) and hopefully teach us all a new thing or two about this city we call home.

Oh, and no pop-ups. Ever.

The ABCs of Journalism: Always Build Community

In an effort to not bury the lead, my news today is I am going to be the new Product Strategist at Postmedia Labs, headquartered (locally) at the Edmonton Journal. New job! New responsibilities! New places to eat lunch! (Downtown lunch recommendations welcome.)

robot, knit, tie
Mr. Roboto, the business robot, says successful media businesses are built on community.

Now then, on to what I think that means about community, or: the long read begins.

With media of all kinds being rocked continually by digital innovations, I think two things lead the way in allowing a media source or producer to stand out and remain relevant. The first is original content. Even the Huffington Post could only get so far re-purposing news content, and original content is what will drive Netflix’s continued growth.

On a smaller scale, or at least in more local media situations, the audience being a part of the process, in some way, shape, or form, is a key. That’s why I find this new opportunity at Postmedia Labs so exciting. While the newspaper arm of the company continues to create content, this startup branch is creating community-based projects to try and establish the newspaper of record (here, the Edmonton Journal) as a true hub of local knowledge, information sharing, and connection. It creates two-way conversations instead of old-style media which just pumps out content.

It’s these kinds of projects, these kinds of chances, from media organizations that will set them apart in an increasingly crowded social media stream. I think in a couple of years it will be projects and products like Capital Ideas, Gastropost, local events, and even bold ventures like the Winnipeg Free Press’ News Cafe, that help traditional media creators continue to do what they do (understanding that “what they do” is also changing). By connecting with the audience, by learning from and listening to them, new products are going to launch, new communities will be fostered, and maybe a little money can be made along the way to keep things afloat. And, really, everyone wins a little bit if we’re working together toward success.

The community aspect of Postmedia Labs is what draws me to the job.

For the last seven years I’ve been the Manager of Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) bureaus in Edmonton and Winnipeg. It’s been a tremendous opportunity and I’ve been a part of many great productions in audio and video which made media forms more accessible (such as audio versions of print material), highlighted disability issues, and helped this pioneering media organization work towards its important mission of making all media accessible to Canadians.

A couple of years back, I was also one of the two editors of local community website (and TV show) the edmontonian. Even with 14 years in traditional media this was probably where I learned the most about journalism and audience. My partner, and the main contributors who helped make the edmontonian what it was, taught me news and media is nothing without an audience and really becomes something special if it’s got the same audience top of mind while producing content.

At AMI I learned about Canada’s disability communities, and keeping them front of mind meant AMI’s shows and stories always had a reason to be produced and thus served a community. At the edmontonian, it was all about Edmontonians (obvs.) who were part of the conversation, and part of the editorial team when they wanted to be. Otherwise it would have just been Sally and I yelling at the Internet. Building up a community, and around one, is what made the edmontonian work and what makes AMI so unique in Canada’s broadcast system. Lessons I won’t soon forget.

Personally, this is an exciting opportunity for me because it’s my first step away from media work. While Postmedia is a large media company, the Labs is a startup within the larger corporation and doesn’t create editorial material like the newsrooms do. I also get to join a great team at the Edmonton location of the Postmedia Labs (Karen, Brittney, Vickie, Sam). I can’t wait to get over there to work with them and the many community partners they’re building with.